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Too young to ride? – February 12, 2007

February 12, 2007
Filed under Features

A bill introduced in the Oregon Senate to implement strict youth safety regulations is attracting national attention from manufacturers, rider groups and safety organizations.
Oregon bill SB 49, which is currently in the state’s Senate Committee on Business, Transportation and Workforce Development, seeks to prohibit operation of ATVs by persons younger than 12 years of age and restrict operation of ATVs by persons 12-15 years of age, based on vehicle displacement.
The bill was introduced by state Senators Alan Bates and Richard Devlin and is partially based on the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America’s (SVIA) Model State ATV Legislation. An SVIA report recommends that children between the ages of 6-12 ride ATVs smaller than 70cc, whereas the Oregon bill would prohibit any ATV use by anyone younger than 12.
Kathy Van Kleeck, senior vice president of government relations at SVIA, said the proposal of such a bill is not unusual, but added that it would be significant if it were passed.
“There are a couple of other states that have 12-year-old minimum ages,” she said. “But most of those only apply on public lands. It wouldn’t be unheard of, but it would be unusual.”
Currently, SB 49 does not specify a difference between public and private lands, but a decision on that aspect of the proposed legislation will likely be made within a month.
In specific, SB 49 would prohibit sellers of ATVs from knowingly selling the vehicles for use by persons younger than 12 or for use by persons 12-15 years of age in violation of engine displacement limitations. Riders between the ages of 12-16 would be restricted to machines with 90cc engines or smaller.
It also directs Oregon’s Parks and Recreation Department to produce and provide safety information to retailers and directs ATV retailers to distribute safety information to purchasers. The fine for violations would be $90.
Sen. Devlin said even with educational training, children under the age of 12 normally do not have the cognitive skills needed to operate a motorized vehicle.
“I do not believe that anybody could argue that it would be almost entirely impossible for a 10-year-old to lift a 300-pound ATV off him [or] herself in a rollover accident,” he said.
Devlin also cited a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study that said 62 Oregonians died from riding ATVs between 1991 and 2005 and, of those, 27 percent were children younger than 16.
While such proposals are not uncommon, Van Kleeck said the Oregon bill has generated a lot of e-mails from riding groups in and outside of Oregon.
“We believe, of course, that youths riding appropriately sized ATVs is the way to go and that’s what we support,” she said. “We actually think that a 12 year or 16 year [age] blanket minimum could be detrimental to safety, because it makes youth models that are safe for kids unavailable in the state, and ultimately it’s going to drive kids even more onto operating adult-sized ATVs.”
She added that safety problems often involve children riding adult-class machines.
According to a SVIA report, nearly 90 percent of all youth ATV-related injury incidents involve a youth riding an adult-sized ATV with an engine greater than 90ccs. It also said that 75 percent of ATV owners ride their machines as a family recreational activity.
Sen. Devlin said he decided to sponsor the bill at the urging of Safe Kids Oregon, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury.
SB 49 is slated to reach the committee level in March or April. psb

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